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5.0 out of 5 stars Benson's Bond Series Overview
As a long time 007 fan, I have just re-read all of Raymond Benson's Bond novels in the proper order and have some reflections on his entire series through "Never Dream of Dying." First of all, Benson is not Ian Fleming and readers should get past that expectation before beginning. He's not John Gardner, either (thank goodness!). That said, I believe Benson has...
Published on Aug. 29 2001

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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Ian Fleming, but oh well...
This is the first of these pastiches of the old James Bond series that I have read. I will confess that I read Fleming many years ago (I think I was in high school) and enjoyed some of the earlier John Gardner books, frankly, more than I enjoyed Fleming. Later I became annoyed with Gardner somewhat, though he did attempt to paper over some of the sillier scenes in the...
Published on Feb. 9 2004 by David W. Nicholas


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3.0 out of 5 stars Not Ian Fleming, but oh well..., Feb. 9 2004
By 
David W. Nicholas (Van Nuys, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This is the first of these pastiches of the old James Bond series that I have read. I will confess that I read Fleming many years ago (I think I was in high school) and enjoyed some of the earlier John Gardner books, frankly, more than I enjoyed Fleming. Later I became annoyed with Gardner somewhat, though he did attempt to paper over some of the sillier scenes in the later movies filmed while he was doing the writing. Raymond Benson is the latest contestant in the continuing saga of someone trying to write a book continuing a character that someone else created.
Benson's writing is only mediocre, but of course the plot is what's important. All of the typical elements of a James Bond novel are here: a criminal mastermind who's trying to do horrible things, a weaker sidekick who's been maneuvered into cooperating, a beautiful woman caught up in things who's unsuspecting, and of course exotic locales and sophisticated entertainments like fancy restaurants and gambling in Monte Carlo.
Benson handles all of this reasonably well, though as I said the writing's only so-so. I enjoyed the book reasonably well, and would recommend it to someone looking for mindless beach entertainment or something to read on a plane while travelling somewhere.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Never again, Oct. 16 2003
By 
N. P. Stathoulopoulos "nick9155" (Brooklyn, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
After enjoying James Bond novels for the guilty pleasures they are, I finally have to put them to rest with Benson's latest 'novel'. I may pick up a Bond book one day, but it will not be a Benson.
Ian Fleming's novels are finally back in print in the USA, and I would encourage everyone reviewing here to pick them up and read them all. Fleming was very good at what he did. Bond was a perfect character to go to the movies, and he has endured as a character well past the Cold War.
Bond was resurrected for the page in the early 80s by spy novelist John Gardner, who churned out no less than 13 Bond novels in about 15 years. Some were good, some were awful. It became clear that Gardner was not very interested in the legacy or the character of Bond. His books seemed to be about a guy named Bond who was a secret agent.
Raymond Benson, super James Bond fan and indeed president of a fan club, was given the mantle to write these books. Not a novelist, Benson did good research and came up with good stories to work Bond and UK interests in.
Unfortunately, he is a bad writer. A non-writer. His books alternate between long descriptions of everything Benson learned on his fact-finding missions to the locales featured in the novel, and then he cuts over to action, bad dialogue, more description, and even went so far as to include some nauseating and embarrassing sex scenes. He cannot write a novel where all of these elements blend into a solid story with sharp plotting and clear characters.
Benson is obsessed with Fleming's Bond. However, he is not obsessed with attempting to write prose that even approaches John Gardner, let alone Fleming. The results are incredibly disappointing and downright silly at times. I don't know how well these have been selling, but it seems like the literary franchise of Bond has been destroyed. While each new Bond films takes in more than the last, Bond books just keep getting more upsetting.
I couldn't even finish this book. After resurrecting characters Fleming created and killed, Benson's plotting is very shoddy, skipping out on Bond for whole sections. The lack of anything approaching engaging prose made me put this, and Benson, down for good.
I gave him a chance. I endured most of 'the Union' trilogy, which is a sad attempt to resurrect SPECTRE. It doesn't have to be this bad. Glidrose needs a pro writer who can up the stock of Bond books.
Not recommended. Go and hunt down Fleming, who must be spinning several times in his grave.
Goodbye, Mr. Benson.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The most Fleming-esque of the post-Fleming Bonds, June 9 2002
By 
R. L. MILLER (FT LAUDERDALE FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
007 again faces The Union with its enigmatic boss Le Gerant, only now we're close enough to know that he's a blind man who doesn't need a cane to move around--he can sense where he is and what's around him. We've learned in earlier books that The Union is a descendent of the old Union Corse from the "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" days. Plus, the Union Corse's old boss--Marc Ange Draco--is still alive. Another thing Marc Ange was--for a few hours he was Bond's father in law by virtue of Bond's all too brief marriage to his daughter Teresa "Tracy" DiVienzo. The post-Fleming Bonds have all suffered from a time warp paradox--Fleming's Bond was a British naval veteran of World War II, which would make him about 75 by "real time". Previous books by both New Bond authors have almost ignored events of the Fleming epoch as a way of dodging that paradox. But one point of amusement in this book is the way Bond has bought the auctioned-off "Goldfinger" car--only to wish it still had all the cool gadgets it did when it was still in Q's charge.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Benson's Bond Series Overview, Aug. 29 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
As a long time 007 fan, I have just re-read all of Raymond Benson's Bond novels in the proper order and have some reflections on his entire series through "Never Dream of Dying." First of all, Benson is not Ian Fleming and readers should get past that expectation before beginning. He's not John Gardner, either (thank goodness!). That said, I believe Benson has come the closest to Ian Fleming of all the post-Fleming writers in that he has truly captured the essence of Bond's character and the universe in which 007 operates. It is a fantasy spy world, not based in reality, just as Fleming's was, but like Bond's creator, Benson keeps the main character very human. Benson's Bond makes mistakes, shows fear, feels pain, and is melancholy much of the time. At the same time, Benson has brought in many elements of the Bond film series (I have read an interview with him that states that he and the Ian Fleming Estate agreed that this would be the approach to take). Therefore, Benson's Bond is a mixture of the cinematic and literary Bonds, and for me, this works splendidly. I have seen some fans object to this or that but it seems to me that these fans are not getting past personal expectations. Bond is many things to many people. Benson, a long time Bond scholar and author of the excellent "James Bond Bedside Companion" knows his stuff. He has nailed the Bond character. Some have complained about his writing style. Benson is no Fleming, as stated earlier, but his style is succinct and easy to read. His books flow quickly and are highly entertaining. "ZERO MINUS TEN": Benson's first book has one of his best plots, but it suffers slightly from being a "first novel." His writing is at its weakest here, but that said, ZMT is a wonderful Bond story. It is very Fleming-esque with its Hong Kong location, characters like Guy Thackeray and T. Y. Woo and Li Xu Nan, and its descriptions of food, mahjong, and Triads. When reading ZMT, one is immediately aware that this is a harder-edged and darker Bond than perhaps what we are used to. For a first effort, it is very, very good. "THE FACTS OF DEATH": Benson's second book is more film-like, it feels like an EON Productions movie story. The plot is more "fantastic" in that it deals with a secret criminal organization called the Decada that is run by a crazy mastermind. The writing is improved,though, and in many ways this is a more entertaining book than ZMT. What is especially interesting is Benson's development of the "M" character and her relationship with Bond. "HIGH TIME TO KILL": My personal favorite of the bunch. This is a classic Bond novel in every sense of the word. The first half is fairly predictable cinematic-Bond stuff, except for a very Fleming-esque opening and 2nd chapter golf match. The second half, however, shows Benson hitting his stride and finding his own voice with a truly original departure from what is expected. As Bond and companions climb one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, the action becomes more like an "Into Thin Air"-type story. It's authentic spy-stuff amidst an environment that is cruel and harsh. This is a thrilling, un-put-downable book. "DOUBLESHOT": Another departure from the norm, as Benson appears to be experimenting with the structure of a Bond novel with this one. The first chapter is the ending of the book told from the different perspectives of several characters. The rest of the story begins in the past and catches up to the ending, and by then we are hooked. In this story, Bond is not well, he is injured, he is not working at full capacity, and this is what is interesting. "Doubleshot" is the middle book of a loose trilogy (beginning with "High Time to Kill") and it is darker and more introspective than the others. Some fans apparently didn't get it, but in many ways, this is Benson's most courageous book. "NEVER DREAM OF DYING": Another great one, right up there with "High Time to Kill," in terms of glueing a reader to the page. It's an excellent plot, tying up the trilogy that Benson began in HTTK. In this book, one can see the blending of the cinematic and literary Bonds more than in any other entry-- a lot of the action is very movie-like, while the storyline and characterizations are more like the Fleming novels. The moods and settings are the best that Benson has done, and the love interest is perhaps his strongest. The real stroke of brilliance in the book is what the author has done with the character of Bond's father in law. A very engaging book. My five-star review is based on Benson's series as a whole. Each book may not be a 5-star book on its own, but I don't think any of them are less than 4. Benson has put his mark on the Bond literary series. Fans who don't like him tend to focus on one or two aspects of what he does-- his writing style, his dependence on the cinematic elements, whatever... I feel that they're not seeing the forest for the trees. In my humble opinion, Raymond Benson has brought new life to the series and I hope he continues the books a long, long time.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Benson's Bond Series Overview, Aug. 25 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
As a long time 007 fan, I have just re-read all of Raymond Benson's Bond novels in the proper order and have some reflections on his entire series through "Never Dream of Dying." First of all, Benson is not Ian Fleming and readers should get past that expectation before beginning. He's not John Gardner, either (thank goodness!). That said, I believe Benson has come the closest to Ian Fleming of all the post-Fleming writers in that he has truly captured the essence of Bond's character and the universe in which 007 operates. It is a fantasy spy world, not based in reality, just as Fleming's was, but like Bond's creator, Benson keeps the main character very human. Benson's Bond makes mistakes, shows fear, feels pain, and is melancholy much of the time. At the same time, Benson has brought in many elements of the Bond film series (I have read an interview with him that states that he and the Ian Fleming Estate agreed that this would be the approach to take). Therefore, Benson's Bond is a mixture of the cinematic and literary Bonds, and for me, this works splendidly. I have seen some fans object to this or that but it seems to me that these fans are not getting past personal expectations. Bond is many things to many people. Benson, a long time Bond scholar and author of the excellent "James Bond Bedside Companion" knows his stuff. He has nailed the Bond character. Some have complained about his writing style. Benson is no Fleming, as stated earlier, but his style is succinct and easy to read. His books flow quickly and are highly entertaining. "ZERO MINUS TEN": Benson's first book has one of his best plots, but it suffers slightly from being a "first novel." His writing is at its weakest here, but that said, ZMT is a wonderful Bond story. It is very Fleming-esque with its Hong Kong location, characters like Guy Thackeray and T. Y. Woo and Li Xu Nan, and its descriptions of food, mahjong, and Triads. When reading ZMT, one is immediately aware that this is a harder-edged and darker Bond than perhaps what we are used to. For a first effort, it is very, very good. "THE FACTS OF DEATH": Benson's second book is more film-like, it feels like an EON Productions movie story. The plot is more "fantastic" in that it deals with a secret criminal organization called the Decada that is run by a crazy mastermind. The writing is improved, though, and in many ways this is a more entertaining book than ZMT. What is especially interesting is Benson's development of the "M" character and her relationship with Bond. "HIGH TIME TO KILL": My personal favorite of the bunch. This is a classic Bond novel in every sense of the word. The first half is fairly predictable cinematic-Bond stuff, except for a very Fleming-esque opening and 2nd chapter golf match. The second half, however, shows Benson hitting his stride and finding his own voice with a truly original departure from what is expected. As Bond and companions climb one of the highest peaks in the Himalayas, the action becomes more like an "Into Thin Air"-type story. It's authentic spy-stuff amidst an environment that is cruel and harsh. This is a thrilling, un-put-downable book. "DOUBLESHOT": Another departure from the norm, as Benson appears to be experimenting with the structure of a Bond novel with this one. The first chapter is the ending of the book told from the different perspectives of several characters. The rest of the story begins in the past and catches up to the ending, and by then we are hooked. In this story, Bond is not well, he is injured, he is not working at full capacity, and this is what is interesting. "Doubleshot" is the middle book of a loose trilogy (beginning with "High Time to Kill") and it is darker and more introspective than the others. Some fans apparently didn't get it, but in many ways, this is Benson's most courageous book. "NEVER DREAM OF DYING": Another great one, right up there with "High Time to Kill," in terms of glueing a reader to the page. It's an excellent plot, tying up the trilogy that Benson began in HTTK. In this book, one can see the blending of the cinematic and literary Bonds more than in any other entry-- a lot of the action is very movie-like, while the storyline and characterizations are more like the Fleming novels. The moods and settings are the best that Benson has done, and the love interest is perhaps his strongest. The real stroke of brilliance in the book is what the author has done with the character of Bond's father in law. A very engaging book. My five-star review is based on Benson's series as a whole. Each book may not be a 5-star book on its own, but I don't think any of them are less than 4. Benson has put his mark on the Bond literary series. Fans who don't like him tend to focus on one or two aspects of what he does-- his writing style, his dependence on the cinematic elements, whatever... I feel that they're not seeing the forest for the trees. In my humble opinion, Raymond Benson has brought new life to the series and I hope he continues the books a long, long time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bond goes Hollywood for a good read, Aug. 20 2001
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
Raymond Benson has done something that no other Bond author has done. He has taken the literary James Bond into the film business. This was a bold move for Benson, seeing as some of the hardcore Bond fans might not like the idea. However, this bold move deserves the highest praise. It not only provides for a new realm that Bond has never been to. It also makes NEVER DREAM OF DYING a great read.
After a botched raid on a French film studio, James Bond is under pressure and having to deal with lots of red tape. However, an unusual breakthrough in the Union case puts Bond back to work. The mission will send him to France and Monaco where he will meet up with an assorted cast of characters. Some these characters are the lovely Tylnn Mingnonne, his long-time colleague Rene Mathis, and even his father-in-law Marc-Ange Draco. To add Draco in the storyline to close up gaps that Fleming left was another brave move on Benson's part. Yet, it worked out and was a pleasant and unpleasant part of the story. There are many elements to NEVER DREAM OF DYING which make it great. Buy the book to find out.
Raymond Benson took a chance with this fine book. It was well worth it though in my opinion. Benson has remained true to the original Bond of days of old. Most people seem to dislike this. This is merely because they are so used to the action-filled films, that they cannot appreciate Bond for the way he was created. To see Benson keep true with the Bond of Fleming's day earns him praise not only for this great book, but for being a great, bold and innovative author. NEVER DREAM OF DYING is a great book for many reasons. Bond's first outting into the film world makes NEVER DREAM OF DYING a book that you should buy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Effort by Benson!!!!, June 23 2001
By 
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
James Bond returns in a novel that very much recalls the world of Ian Fleming. To begin with, the book completes the "Union Trilogy" whereas Bond discovers the identity of Le Gerant and works to deal the criminal organization a death blow. However, this story is much more personal and long time Fleming fans will note that it effectively recalls the flavor of the Ian Fleming novels LIVE AND LET DIE and ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE. As one reviewer noted, while Benson does not write like Fleming, he is able to capture his world and the essence of the James Bond character. One of the major ties to Fleming is the return of French agent Rene Mathis and Bond's father-in-law Marc-Ange Draco. Both of these characters are handled well and greatly add to the story and the James Bond saga.
Benson has also turned up the notch with the amount of pain and suffering inflicted on Bond and his allies by the villains, much as Fleming did in LIVE AND LET DIE.
Benson has definitely done his homework regarding Fleming and keeps true to the series. However, casual Bond fans will find they are not left out as Benson's Bond has similarity with the cinematic 007. The careful reader and viewer of the films will be able to pick up subtle clues and ties to the Eon Productions film series and how Benson has neatly and seamlessly entwined both of these worlds together.
Finally, Benson has crafted a Fleming style, Bondian love story, yet manages to give it an original twist.
Overall an excellent effort from an author who seeks to keep the true Bond alive while injecting new elements to the saga.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Never Dream of Buying !!!, June 19 2001
By 
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
The final part of Benson's Union trilogy fails to build on the previous work, "Doubleshot" (2000), and is another weak effort from him. I think the real problem lies in the fact that Benson just hasn't taken into account that the character of James Bond has moved on considerably from Fleming's original creation, and in order to keep pace with the cinematic version the novels need to have more action and excitement than ever before. John Gardner recognised this but tried to remain true to the literary Bond, not always successfully I'll admitt !!!, but Benson just doesn't seem to appreciate this. As a result he tends to write these limp thrillers that lack the pace of the movies, indeed the average pre-credit sequence of one of the films contains more excitement and spectacle than almost this entire novel. Also Benson has a terrible tendacy to treat Bond like a moron, taking far too long for 007 to put the pieces together in a plot that the average reader will have figured out after the first couple of chapters. The emphasis here is that Bond is an "intelligence" agent, not some "stupid policeman" (* as quoted by Dr No in the film !!!) and should NEVER be portrayed as such. Finally this novel has some surprising similarities to John Gardner's somewhat weak effort "Never Send Flowers" (1993), in that both involve the film industry in some respect and both end with a plot to blow up royalty !!! Sorry to say but at the price of hardback novels now this kind of effort just isn't worth it, so my advice to anyone considering buying this novel, wait for the paperback.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The Stag Routs the Devil's Dream Wolf in Darkness!, June 9 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
Raymond Benson has a great respect for, knowledge of, and facility with the original Ian Fleming books about James Bond. As a result, he is able to recreate the well-known formula in ways similar to Mr. Fleming while reflecting and refracting powerful connections to the earlier stories. A thoughtful tip of the hat comes to every one of Mr. Fleming's books at one point or another in the story. As such, the book at some level of a Fleming tribute as much as an action novel. Unfortunately, Mr. Benson lacks the hard edge fascination with the bizarre, the deviant, and evil-doers that gave readers an eye-opening experience in Mr. Fleming's books. All James Bond fans will love the story, but it's a kinder, gentler version.
Bond is on the trail of a recent nemesis (of the last few books), Le Gerant (manager or managing director in French) who is head of the evil organization, the Union. They are for hire to the highest bidder and specialize in providing arms for terrorist purposes. The story opens before a raid on a rotting film production facility in southern France. The French authorities have intelligence that arms are being hidden inside. They plan to attack while shooting is going on in one of the adjacent sound stages. Commander Bond disagrees, but it's a French operation, and the attack takes place under Commandant Malherbe (creative name for someone whose leading a doomed operation -- Mr. Benson is good with names that way). It's a Union trap for the French, and soon the French attackers are being cut down. In the desperate struggle that follows, Bond's counterattack causes a fire that burns down the occupied sound stage, killing 19 and injuring many more. The fall-out from the attack leads to Bond's friend, Rene Mathis (From Russia with Love) being put on leave for two months. Disgusted, M. Mathis resigns to track Le Gerant on his own. Bond wants to continue the chase as well, and wins reprieves from M as he makes progress.
The book's overriding theme is about seeing and blindness. The theme is explored in terms of visual acuity, identity, foretelling the future, and communication. In this element, Mr. Benson exceeds the master. Although Mr. Fleming also explored complex themes in many dimensions, Mr. Benson is better at it here than Mr. Fleming was at the height of his talents.
One of the book's most interesting parts is the way that characters you haven't read about in decades are woven back into this tale. This connection gives the book a powerful way to continue your impressions from those wonderful stories. You will have one major surprise along the way when someone supposedly dead reappears.
As in all Bond stories, this novel has much more action than character development. Yet, you will find a few new dimensions to 007 that will probably interest you. There is a graphic description of "safe sex" in one encounter here that feels very much like Fleming at his best.
The action all occurs right on schedule, from the obligatory opening scene to the post-battle wind-up with the leading lady. Many of the scenes make good use of the local scenary, and I thought that the Corsican descriptions were especially fine.
After you read the book, I suggest that you also think about how risk and reward should be evaluated in your life. When is it a good idea to plunge ahead, and when is temporary caution more appropriate.
Dream of better days . . . and take action to secure them!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Never Dreamed of This..., June 7 2001
By 
Brian Berley "Areanaut" (Evanston, Illinois) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Never Dream Of Dying (Hardcover)
Say what you will about Benson's novels, he always strives to bridge the literary links between Fleming's originals and his own Bond adventures. 007's latest outing brings Bond face to face with Le Gerant, the mysterious mastermind behind the Union -- the deadly crime cartel Bond has battled in the previous two novels.
Bond meets up with an old ally, Frenchman Rene Mathis who first appeared in Casino Royale, the Bond book that spawned the series. But perhaps more notably, Bond is reacquainted with his father-in-law, Marc-Ange Draco (On Her Majesty's Secret Service.) One of Fleming's most colorful and memorable characters, Draco's life since the death of Tracy -- Bond's murdered wife -- remained a mystery to readers, and I'm sure many of us wondered what became of his relationship with Bond in the subsequent years. Benson takes an enormous chance re-introducing a character of this stature, but somehow pulls it off.
Never Dream of Dying has Bond back as the dogged assassin, and thanks to Benson's decision to limit the plot to a few well exploited locales, we're given more than glimpse of the historical Corsica, and the lavish Cannes. Unlike the film makers, Fleming was always smart enough to realize that the setting was as much a part of his novels as any character. By the end of a Fleming novel, and now a Benson novel, we feel as though we've lived a bit of the locale instead of just gotten off the bus for a couple of snapshots.
My strongest recommendation for Never Dream of Dying comes not for it's tight plot, but for Benson's characterization of Bond, himself. He seems wiser, more hardened and, as a whole, more complete as a character. Cheers to you, Raymond, for continuing to take the job seriously, and for working so hard to get it right.
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